Gua sha is an ancient Chinese treatment technique used to stimulate the lymphatic system, a network of tissues and organs in your body responsible for the immune system and removing excess waste and fluid. The technique was developed centuries ago – but you may have seen it more recently on TikTok promising to chisel your jawline or define your cheekbones. While there are some benefits to facial massage (especially with the proper technique), there are some real limitations if you are looking to treat breakouts, hyperpigmentation, or firm and strengthen the skin. Read on to see if this smooth stone should have a solid place in your skincare routine.
What is a Gua Sha?
Gua Sha, or jade scraping, is a technique that uses a smooth, thin, jade stone to glide along the lymphatic system to improve blood circulation and drainage function. Massaging or scraping along this network of vessels – similar to blood vessels – can help to de-puff the face and rebalance fluid retention. Increased blood flow to the skin delivers oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells for a temporarily brighter, more radiant complexion. But before you go clicking ‘add to cart’, it is important to know that most claims for Gua Sha beyond stimulating lymphatic drainage are purely anecdotal. There is no hard science to support claims that it stimulates collagen, diminishes dark circles, or decreases inflammation.
Gua Sha Treatment Techniques
If you are thinking about attempting Gua Sha at-home, there are a few things you can do to bring this practice into the 21st century. First, while it is called a “scraping technique”, it is not advisable to pull, tug, or scrape the skin. This could cause injury or micro-tears to the top layers of the skin barrier, compromising its ability to retain moisture and protect against outside pathogens. Gentle, light pressure is all you need to stimulate blood flow and depuff excess fluid. Second, there should be ample product on your face and neck for your jade stone to easily glide without noticeable friction. Lastly, all massaging motions should be guided towards the heart. This is the lymphatic system’s flow of direction for processing and removing waste and toxins.
How to do a Gua Sha treatment
Step one: start with clean, dry skin
This creates the perfect environment for your skin to best absorb your active serum or booster. Reach for a pH-balanced cleanser, like Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel, that will gently remove impurities and decongest pores without stripping the skin of natural, healthy oils.
Step two: apply your serum
Start by applying a generous amount of your favorite serum to your face and neck. We like the Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster because it allows the jade tool to glide across skin while delivering soothing, hydrating ingredients to smooth the appearance of dry fine lines and rough texture, leaving you with soft, hydrated skin. To get the most out of this practice, use clinical products that are proven to improve skin’s hydration, increase collagen production or treat and prevent specific skin concerns.
Step three: begin treatment with the neck
To stimulate the lymphatic system, you want to focus on directing fluid to the lymph nodes, this is where it will be filtered and processed for removal. There are hundreds of these small, bean-shaped structures in your body, but you want to target lymph nodes that will help de-puff and move excess fluid away from the face, such as the neck, at the base of the head, at the jaw, and below the eye. Start with the neck, softly stroking down from the base of the head towards the heart.
Step four: use light, feather-like strokes
With even pressure, work your tool around your face, directing fluid away from the eyes and nose, outwards towards the hairline and neck. Follow the natural curves of your face along the jawline and cheekbones to direct fluid towards the neck and heart. Gentle, feather-like strokes upward will be all you need to stimulate the lymph nodes and improve flow and drainage. Don’t forget to re-apply more product as needed to keep your tool slick.
Step five: do the eye area (but be gentle!)
Stimulating the lymph nodes under the eyes can have great de-puffing effects. However, remember that the skin around the eye is thinner than the rest of your face, making it more vulnerable to fine lines and wrinkles as a result of pulling and tugging. A powerful, yet gentle treatment like the Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Triple Correction Eye Serum is perfect to use around the delicate eye area. Use light pressure to guide the stone, and let the active ingredients – retinol, bakuchiol, and rambutan – do the work to diminish wrinkles, reduce crepiness and boost hydration.
Step six: hydrate and protect
Complete your treatment with a moisturizer to lock in hydration – and target any other skin concerns. We like Vitamin C Lactic Oil-Free Radiant Moisturizer plus All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 PA++++ during the day for superior antioxidant protection.
Limitations of Gua Sha
Let’s be clear – gua sha is a massaging tool. While we absolutely love it as a self-care moment, it is not going to treat breakouts, hyperpigmentation, or lines, to firm or brighten the skin. For that, you need scientifically-proven active ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, LED light therapy, and alpha and beta hydroxy acids.
The key is helping your skin produce more collagen naturally for stronger, firmer, and radiant skin. You can find those ingredients in your serums and boosters that help your jade tool glide on the skin.
Check out more collagen-building products and devices from Dr. Gross:
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